Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Robert Erskine, 16 October 1776

To Robert Erskine

ALS (draft):6 American Philosophical Society

Philada. Oct. 16. 76


I should sooner have acknowledged your Favour of Aug. 16. containing the Drawing of your Chevaux de Frise: but that I have been so extreamly occupy’d as to be oblig’d to postpone writing to many of my Correspondents.

Please to accept my Thanks for the Communication of your Contrivance, which I am persuaded will answer the Purpose where ever the Bottom is so hard as to prevent the Points being press’d into the Ground by the passing Ship before the Resistance shall become great enough to force the upper Points thro’ her Bottom. The Ground being soft in our Channel, we were oblig’d to fix our pointer Beams to a Floor, in the Chevaux we plac’d there during the Summer of the preceding Year.7 That Floor gives them so firm a Stand, that all the Vessels which thro’ Inadvertence have run upon them, have had such Breaches made in their Bottoms as immediately sunk them. One was a large Ship. I am, Sir, with great Esteem, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Notation: A Letter to Dr. B. Franklin and a letter of B Franklin.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6On the back of Erskine’s letter above, Aug. 16, 1776; hence the notation below.

7For a discussion of these Pa. chevaux-de-frise and BF as their purported designer see John W. Jackson, The Pennsylvania Navy, 1775–1783 . . . (New Brunswick, N. J., 1974), pp. 353–76, and the editorial note on the committee of safety above, June 30, 1775. BF must have considered the new design of some importance, because before embarking for France he left what we assume was Erskine’s drawing, along with other papers, in the hands of David Rittenhouse: Memorandum Book (above, VII, 167–8), entry of Oct. 21, 1776.

8On the verso, in a different hand from that of the notation, is “Bernard Maussac de Lamarquisie,” for whom see Woedtke to BF above, July 4, 1776. We assume, knowing nothing about his movements, that he carried either Erskine’s letter or this one in final form, or both.

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